The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) formally invited historically neutral Sweden and Finland to the military alliance bloc on June 29, as the Russian invasion of Ukraine continued for its 13th week. The two countries, which have remained neutral for much of the past 100 years, submitted their candidacies on May 18, in light of Russian aggression against Ukraine and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intermittent nuclear rattling.
“We reaffirm our commitment to NATO’s Open Door Policy. Today we decided to invite Finland and Sweden to become members of NATO and agreed to sign the accession protocols,” the organization said in a statement.
“We welcome the conclusion of the trilateral memorandum between Turkey, Finland and Sweden to this effect. The membership of Finland and Sweden will make them more secure, NATO stronger and the Euro-Atlantic area more secure. The security of Finland and Sweden is of direct importance to the Alliance, including during the accession process.”
What was the deal with Turkey?
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had threatened to block the application to join the alliance bloc. But at the recent NATO summit in Madrid, President Erdogan abandoned his weeks of resistance, not without securing several concessions in a 10-point deal.
Erdogan, however, maintained his bellicose stance, telling reporters on June 30, just after the summit, that the memorandum did not mean that Turkey would automatically approve the two countries’ membership. “If they fulfill their duties, we will send it to parliament. If they’re not fulfilled, it’s out of the question,” he said.
One of the major points of the agreement is that Finland and Sweden will now extradite Kurdish militants to Turkey. Another major agreement is that the two Scandinavian countries will lift the arms embargo on Turkey, which was imposed in response to the latter’s military incursion into Syria in 2019.
Thirty-three people should be extradited from the two countries. All are accused of being Kurdish militants or part of the failed “coup” that Turkey witnessed in 2016. Since 2016, President Erdogan has increased his authoritarian control and harshly suppressed civil societies in Turkey. With Finland and Sweden being among Turkey’s most vocal critics, or Türkiye as President Erdogan insists the country be called, the deal changes the dynamic between those countries.
Are Finland and Sweden now members of NATO?
The two countries are technically not members until the accession process is completed by ratification. The ratification process will take nearly a year, as each of the 30 NATO allies must have their membership ratified by their parliament. Once ratification is complete, Finland and Sweden will be covered by the mutual defense of the treaty under Article 5. But in the meantime, the countries risk Russian aggression, although military aggression is unlikely, almost all of the Russian forces being tied up. in Ukraine. Other forms of aggression like cyberattacks and energy pressure, however, can be expected.
Meanwhile, several NATO allies have made less binding commitments to protect both countries. The most comprehensive of these is a defense pact the UK has signed with the two countries, which would see the island nation come to the defense of either country in the event of aggression.
“Should either country suffer a disaster or attack, the UK and Sweden will assist each other in a variety of ways. Support will be provided at the request of the affected country and may include military resources” , said Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson.
What does this mean for the region?
Sweden has been neutral for over 100 years while Finland has been neutral since the start of the Cold War. Both countries have tried to maintain normal relations with Russia, but the Russian invasion has now pushed both countries towards NATO. With this, Russia is almost entirely surrounded by NATO countries on its western front, with the exception of Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus, which Russia has been trying to avoid since the start of the war. cold War.
President Putin has already responded to the membership request by threatening both countries, cutting Finland’s power supply and warning of further “military-technical” actions. What exactly this entails is unclear.
Russia’s reasoning for invading Crimea in 2014 and Georgia in 2008, apart from President Putin’s mythical ambition to revive the borders of the Soviet Union, was allegedly to prevent the expansion of the NATO to what it considered its own sphere of geopolitical influence. But with the decision to militarily destabilize the new world order, the president has caused exactly what he wanted to avoid: the exclusion of Russia and the enlargement of NATO.
(Edited by : Shoma Bhattacharjee)